April 22, 2019 | 52° F

RU uses home crowd as added motivation

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Sophomore 157-pounder John Van Brill has made the most of Richie Lewis’ injury, breaking into the national rankings.

Down 7-0, John Van Brill reverses, then mounts. In a swift few seconds, the whistle blows and he rises. Intermission rings, Van Brill raises his arms to the sky, levels with the crowd and the Louis Brown Athletic Center is in his hands.

More than their cheers rain on him. The seats drape over the mat — it’s an intimate moment. Van Brill’s eyes meet waves of red and black.

A few matches prior, it was Scott DelVecchio’s turn. Assuming the reins after Tyson Dippery’s injury, DelVecchio has made a season out of playing the crowd, spurring on teammates like Van Brill and drawing on the legacies of former All-Americans like Anthony Perrotti.

Whatever it is — whether a way to follow Perrotti’s path or to motivate following wrestlers — it’s working.

“It’s one of the reasons (Van Brill) came here,” said head coach Scott Goodale. “He likes that atmosphere. He plays to that. Scott DelVecchio’s the same way, there’s guys that thrive off of that, and I think he is one of those guys.”

Within the current Rutgers wrestling team, there is symmetry within. Van Brill and DelVecchio, toiling in the second cut behind the likes of then-ranked Richie Lewis and Dippery, had to emerge, and break through the starting lineups amid Lewis’ and Dippery’s injuries early on in the season.

Goodale has been particularly impressed with the way sophomore Van Brill has responded to Lewis’ injury, as he slid into the national rankings recently, collecting multiple wins over ranked opponents.

“Van Brill’s been unbelievable,” Goodale said. “He’s an extremely hard worker, he puts his head down and goes to work. He’s having some unbelievable success, he probably has the most wins over ranked opponents. He probably has three or four of them. He’s in every match, he’s dangerous. He’s been huge for us.”

And Van Brill would be the first one to say that his feeding off the crowd plays a major role in that.

“It’s a really exciting part about this atmosphere,” Van Brill said. “Our fans, the venue, everybody is right on top of you. When you do something well, you hear from every single person. You don’t see anything but people cheering for you. It’s hard not to feed off of that type of energy.”

The Scarlet Knights drew 2,500 people to the RAC the night of Van Brill’s storied comeback pin — one which Goodale and numerous reporters alike said they had never seen before, and the majority of those rose to their feet thanks to Van Brill’s bravado following his win.

He holds that being down 7-0 would have been a nonstarter without 2,500 strong behind him.

“It’s hard not to feed off of that type of energy. The fans give you something awesome to work with, and I’ve got to give it to them. I hear them yelling, and you can’t let someone off their back when you hear something like that, when you have fans like that.”

But DelVecchio follows a different narrative. For the South Plainfield junior, much of it lies within the realm of momentum. If the crowd ramps up for him, it’ll do so for the next guy and so on.

“I think just winning in general helps the guys coming after me,” DelVecchio said. “I think some momentum is good in any case. As long as I can go out there and get a win, everything else is just icing on the cake.”

If DelVecchio’s successor on the mat, No. 6 Anthony Ashnault, is anything to go by, then that momentum is certainly carrying from match to match.

But DelVecchio and Van Brill have enjoyed a good deal of success in their own right this season, and as Goodale contends, the more wins they rack up, the more they’ll get to play to the crowd at the end of the bout.

“When you win, you’re able to do that,” Goodale said. “When you pin someone, you can do it a little bit more. I don’t want people to be hot dogs, but heck, this is a tough enough sport. Enjoy yourself a little bit. Good for him.”

For more updates on the Rutgers wrestling team, follow @TargumSports and jon_spilletti on Twitter.

Jon Spilletti

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